In anticipation of Inspiro Fest 2015 — the third annual communal arts festival featuring live theatre and music performances, local vendors, healers, workshops and more — B*TRU ARTS spoke with some of the featured performing guests.
Here, local musician Cat Clemons III, 23, speaks on his career, his musical influences and his Chicago childhood.
B*TRU ARTS: Where are you from, and how did you end up in Austin?
Clemons: I'm originally from Chicago, Illinois. I had visited Austin several times with my Dad before I moved here, and I loved how diverse the music scene was. The only common thread seemed to be that all of the musicians played at an extraordinarily high level, with their own highly personal concept of music.
B: Tell me about your music career.
Well my Dad used to own a music store, so I was constantly surrounded by music, but I didn't start playing guitar until I was about 15 years old. I didn't practice that much for the first few months, but then something clicked and I started practicing nonstop, and I began singing shortly after. I started playing in my Dad's band when I was 16, along with several other Western Swing, Blues, Rock and Traditional Country bands in the area. I think that my conception of music is always changing and evolving as I listen to more music and attempt to refine my own musical language and technique through daily practice. At least that's the goal! I've always been mainly an improviser until fairly recently, where I'm finding myself in the role of composer more frequently. At this point in my life, I just want to make music that is honest and aesthetically pleasing to me. I can only hope that it will bring joy and happiness to others.
B: Is your music a full-time gig?
I am lucky enough to be a full time musician. I spend my days practicing and teaching private guitar students, and my nights are spent making music in a variety of wonderful situations, mostly in the Austin area. It's a beautiful life!
B: How would you describe your music in one sentence?
Like Duke Ellington and Elvis Costello having a drink at MF DOOM's house.
B: Who are your biggest influences (in music or life in general)?
There's just too many to count, but off the top of my head I would say Albert Ayler, Johnny Gimble, Al Green, Paco De Lucia, Dr, Dre, Blind Willie Johnson, Wayne Shorter and Olivier Messiaen have all had a tremendous influence on me. I take a lot of cues from the world of visual arts as well and artists like Paul Klee, Rene Magritte, R. Crumb, Pablo Picasso, Diane Arbus and Georges Seurat have all had a tremendous impact on the way I think about music.
B: What might people be surprised to know about you?
I've never seen a fox before in my whole life. Not even one.
B: What can we expect to see at your performance at Inspiro Fest this Saturday?
My interpretations of songs from the worlds of Jazz and Popular Music as well as a few of my own songs. All of my music is very firmly rooted in improvisation, so the performance is just as important as the songs themselves.
B: Where can we hear your music or learn more about you?
Unfortunately my online presence is rather scant at this point, but I'm in the process of changing that. For now, people can find out where I'll be playing as well as stay updated on all of my musical happenings through my Facebook under my own name, Cat Clemons III.
See Clemons's performance and join B*TRU ARTS and the Integrity Academy for the 3rd Annual Inspiro Fest, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 13 at Casa De Luz, 1701 Toomey Road, Austin, Texas 78704.